Any man who is a man may not, in honor, submit to threats or violence

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Jeff Cooper’s Principles Of Personal Defense appears to be out of print and unavailable on Kindle, but the full text can be found online. Here is the introduction:

Some people prey upon other people. Whether we like it or not, this is one of the facts of life. It has always been so and it is not going to change. The number of sociopaths in a stipulated population varies widely, but we can take a figure of one in one hundred, for simplicity’s sake, and not be far off. About one person in one hundred will, under some circumstances, initiate a violent attack upon another, in defiance of the law, for reasons that seem sufficient to him at the time. Take the able-bodied male population of your community, divide it by one hundred, and you have a fair approximation of the number of possible contacts who just might take it upon themselves to beat your head in. It is not pertinent to dispute the mathematics of this calculation. It may be wrong for your place and time. But anyone who is aware of his environment knows that the peril of physical assault does exist, and that it exists everywhere and at all times. The police, furthermore, can protect you from it only occasionally.

The author assumes that the right of self-defense exists. Some people do not. This booklet is not for them. This is for those who feel that anyone who chooses physically to attack another human being does so at his peril. In some jurisdictions it is held that the victim of an attacker must, above all, attempt to escape. This is a nice legalistic concept, but it is very often tactically unsound. By the time one has exhausted every means of avoiding conflict it may be too late to save his life. Laws vary, and cannot be memorized encyclopedically; in any case, we are not concerned here about jurisprudence, but about survival. If one lives through a fight, we will assume that he is better off than if he does not, even though he may be thereafter confronted with legal action.

Violent crime is feasible only if its victims are cowards. A victim who fights back makes the whole business impractical. It is true that a victim who fights back may suffer for it, but one who does not almost certainly will suffer for it. And, suffer or not, the one who fights back retains his dignity and his self-respect Any study of the atrocity list of recent years — Starkweather, Speck, Manson, Richard Hickok and Cary Smith, et al. — shows immediately that the victims, by their appalling ineptitude and timidity, virtually assisted in their own murders. (“Don’t make them mad, Martha, so they won’t hurt us.”)

Any man who is a man may not, in honor, submit to threats or violence. But many men who are not cowards are simply unprepared for the fact of human savagery. They have not thought about it (incredible as this may appear to anyone who reads the paper or listens to the news) and they just don’t know what to do. When they look right into the face of depravity or violence, they are astonished and confounded. This can be corrected.

The techniques of personal combat are not covered in this work. The so-called “martial arts” (boxing, karate, the stick, the pistol, etc.) are complete studies in themselves and must be acquired through suitable programs of instruction, training, and practice. It behooves all able-bodied men and women to consider them. But the subject of this work is more basic than technique, being a study of the guiding principles of survival in the face of unprovoked violence on the part of extralegal human assailants. Strategy and tactics are subordinate to the principles of war, just as individual defensive combat is subordinate to the following principles of personal defense.


  1. Kirk says:

    I’ve lost my copy of this, somewhere along the line. I’m grateful for the .pdf link.

    Cooper is an interesting character. I would have liked to have known him, but I rather suspect that the critical mass of “curmudgeon” might have been reached when we met, and the resultant criticality might have destroyed a great deal around whatever location that was where we met.

    George C. Nonte was another character from “ye olde dayes” that it would be interesting to look at. I remember looking at the Glock a long time after he wrote “Combat Handguns”, and being struck by the similarities between the two concepts. Nonte’s ideas never saw much official light, but it’s odd how many of his ideas became de rigeur in combat handgun design over the years…

  2. Graham says:

    I second Kirk’s gratitude for the link. I’d like to read this in the near future.

    Hard copies did appear on Amazon used, but at high prices in the $70s and way up.

    I don’t know this business and can’t vouch, but they appear to be selling at a more reasonable price for anyone into a hard copy. Buyer beware, or course.

  3. Adar says:

    A man of honor will also be wise even when threatened and armed to at least attempt to be conciliatory or beat a retreat. You must consider not only the legal consequences of your actions but also the civil consequences. The latter being a law suit of the estate of the assailant. Even if totally 100 % legally innocent you can lose in civil court and big time. Prudence is not necessarily dishonorable.

  4. Andy says:

    That business, Gunsite? It’s merely the firearms training school that Jeff Cooper founded, and later sold… Most likely they can be trusted to ship you his book.

  5. Graham says:

    Andy, thanks!

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